According to political analysts, the Minsk visit of a representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Gunnar Wiegand, is unlikely to result in the release of the political prisoners in Belarus.
On December 17 Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s press office reported that Gunnar Wiegand had a meeting with Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey. They “discussed a range of issues concerning the current state of the relationship between Belarus and EU and ways of its normalization,” the report says..
According to news agency BelaPAN, Mr Wiegand is not going to make any statements on the visit’s outcome.
Yakauleuski: the sheer fact that they met is positive
Raman Yakauleuski described the visit as a sign that Belarus and the European Union are looking for ways out of the current impasse. “It means that the both sides are looking for solving this abnormal situation caused by the events of December 19, 2010,” he said.
Yakauleuski agreed that Makey and Wiegand had probably discussed the EU sanctions against the Belarusian Foreign Minister. Due to his being on the EU entry ban list Makey can not meet with Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and that is why the EU “troubleshooter” [Wiegand] arrived in Belarus.
“However, the release and exoneration of the political prisoners are hardly possible,” the political observer said. “Indeed, some of them had been transferred to tougher prisons. The issue of political prisoners might have been raised but Makey doesn’t decide anything in this country. The only person who calls the shots in Belarus is Aliaksandr Lukashenka, but this man says one thing today and another tomorrow.”
Karbalevich: It is a routine event
In his turn, political analyst Valery Karbalevich described the visit as a “routine event”. “They have permanent contacts, but not at a high [political] level. It’s not sensational news that the EU official who is responsible for the region comes to Belarus and does talkings,” he stressed.
The analyst does not hope for better things from Wiegand’s visit. “The sides are sticking rigidly to their positions and they are unlikely to abandon them. According to him, ”the only subject that could have been discussed is the possibility of removing Mr. Makey from the European Union’s entry ban list. The Belarus-EU relationship is unlikely to improve as a result of the visit, as the EU demands the release and exoneration of the political prisoners as a precondition for reengagement, while Aliaksandr Lukashenka is clearly determined not to release his imprisoned opponents, Valery Karbalevich said.
It is to be recalled that Gunnar Wiegand made an official visit to Belarus on February 8-10, 2012. He met with former Foreign Minister Siarhei Martynau, human rights defenders, political prisoners’ families, diplomatic staff members and representatives of the Belarusian government.
At the end of February, 2012 the diplomatic row broke out between Minsk and Brussels. It was caused by the EU decision on toughening economic and visa sanctions against Belarus. In response, the Belarusian authorities recommended Head of EU Delegation to Belarus Maira Mora and Polish Ambassador Leszek Szerepko to leave Minsk. In solidarity all the EU ambassadors departed from the Belarusian capital.
On April 14-15 ex-presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau and his aide Zmitser Bandarenka were released under presidential decrees. At the end of April EU ambassadors returned to Belarus.